With a name like the “Little Mac Memorial,” one would think that the annual disc-golf tournament to be held next month would be a fundraiser.
But it isn’t money Sean-Paul Schulte, the organizer, wants to raise at this year’s tournament, the third in what has become an annual event.
“As a parent, if you let a minor have a weapon, that minor could make a major mistake,” Schulte says.
He knows about that firsthand, not because his child, MacKeon (Mackey or “Mac”) Schulte made such a mistake, but because he was the victim of one.
“Keep guns locked away from troubled — not just troubled — from any teens,” Schulte says.
Mac, a sophomore in high school, was killed when, during a middle-of-the-night prank, a friend who thought he was a home intruder shot him.
That friend had a gun, given to him by his father, resting on his nightstand by his bed. With the gun convenient and accessible, he didn’t take the time to assess the situation before pulling the trigger, according to Schulte as well as reports of the incident.
The story goes like this, as given by both Schulte and contemporary news reports: MacKeon and one of his friends were hanging out late one night. Schulte says they were at the football field at the Billings, Mont., high school they both attended, lying on the grass looking at stars. It was something they thought another friend, Seth Culver, would want to do with them. The three were the best of friends, Schulte says. Mac and his friend went to Culver’s home, where they tried to wake Culver up by tossing pebbles at his window. When they got no response, Mac climbed to the window to knock on it.
Culver had indeed been roused out sleep by the noise outside the window but had become scared. He grabbed the .38 caliber pistol his father had given him, which was within reach. As soon as Mac’s head appeared at the window, Culver, then 17, fired before recognizing who it was. The bullet went through the window and struck Mac in the head. Mac died as a result.
As any family would be, Mac’s family was devastated.
“I wouldn’t want my worst enemy to know what it feels like, it’s that bad,” Schulte says. “If there was some way I could trade places with Mackie, I would do it in a second.
His grief was so great, he says, that he completely withdrew from society, and spent about eight months living in a teepee in the woods. “No one could approach me.”
He did finally come out of reclusion, and he relocated to Moab.
He and Mac had both been frisbee-golf enthusiasts, and they played together frequently. “That was his thing,” Schulte says. So he decided to hold a disc-golf tournament in memory of Mac.
Schulte went door-to-door to businesses around town asking for donations for tournament prizes. New to Moab, with a population unfamiliar with the incident, Schulte found himself explaining it over and over again. There were tears every time, he says.
“The first year, I must have cried with 50 strangers,” he says. “Telling that story so many times, it was really healing for me.”
The tournament was successful, so he held it again last year with even greater success. He expects this year to continue creating a trend. “People are coming from all over,” he says. “Phoenix, Montana, Seattle.” He expects many from Colorado, too, where word last year began spreading about this “weird little tournament” in Moab, he says.
Schulte has a point to make with it though, in addition to simply being one man’s attempt to keep the memory of his son alive and heal a little of the pain those memories bring.
“At the end of the tournament, I give a short gun-safety speech,” he says.
He makes sure to say he is not talking about gun control. After all, “I’m fine with guns,” he says. “I’m from Montana, and it’s a gun-totin’ state.” He says, “Gun safety doesn’t mean we’re taking your guns. It means you’re safe with your guns.”
In his mind, that means young people are kept away from too-readily accessible guns. It’s a hugely important issue for him, but it comes up only once during the tournament, after the awards are given out and “we have five minutes of crying,” Schulte says.“I tell them about what happened to Mack, and I ask them to keep their guns locked in a gun safe.”
The tournament will begin on March 24 at 9 a.m. at the Old City Park disc golf course. It will continue with various events through March 25.